BOOTLE’S COMMUNITY AND VOLUNTARY SECTOR THRIVING IN NEW ERA FOR STRAND SHOPPING CENTRE
Fast becoming part of Bootle Strand Shopping Centre’s increasingly diverse offer is a community hub, continuing to support a thriving voluntary and charitable sector.
Acquisition of the Strand Shopping Centre in 2017 gave the Council control over the space and how it can be used to benefit the local community and economy. The Council’s aim was to make the Strand more than simply a place to shop and in line with that intention, it is becoming a space where people can spend time, find support, get involved and connect with a strong focus on social as well as financial outcomes.
Since 2017, Sefton Council and the centre have supported a number of voluntary organisations to take up residence in the Strand, as it becomes the heart of the town centre’s physical, social and economic regeneration.
The Strand is now providing a valuable gateway to inclusive support for the local communities. This is particularly the case for those with additional needs or those who need extra support. Organisations now located in the Strand include Y-Kids who run Kingsley and Co, a community children’s bookshop. Books cost as little as £1 to inspire creativity and encourage reading among children. The organisation contribute to the Strand’s community events programme on a regular basis, running events and competitions throughout the year, the latest ‘Dino Dig’ event saw 2000 people attend.
In December 2020, the Big Onion opened, transforming 6000 sqft of unused to let space to provide three layers of opportunity including a market space for 19 independent retailers, an employability hub and a community centre. The Big Onion supports young, local entrepreneurs who run stalls selling everything from craft items, bath bombs to collectibles and plays an integral part of our inclusive strategy to support local entrepreneurialism and talent, create jobs and strengthen communities.
The Strand also hosts Bootle Tool Shed, a community workshop who aim to combat social isolation among Bootle’s older population and produce fantastic products for people up and down the borough.
The community offer covers mental health and wellbeing, social inclusion, craft skills training, provision of musical instrument lessons and reading and employment support.
Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council said:
“High streets up and down the country have suffered in recent times and we know that regeneration must mean more than solely new retail space.
“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, town centres will have to present a diverse range of amenities and services with a strong community focus to succeed. Therefore, in this new era, the Strand must be more than just a shopping centre.
“I am delighted to see that work by dedicated and inspirational voluntary organisations is creating a community hub at the Strand, in the heart of one of the towns hardest hit by COVID-19.
“Purchasing the Strand Shopping Centre in 2017 gave us the opportunity to support our voluntary sector in the amazing work they do in our community. Our focus remains on economic and social outcomes for Bootle town centre, as well as the financial performance of the Strand. The Council’s ownership of the centre means we can agree tenancy for certain units with these fantastic organisations and create this thriving voluntary space in the centre of our town.
“After the disappointment of our Levelling Up Fund bids for Bootle and Crosby being rejected, we need these community groups more than ever to bring energy and passion to regenerate these areas that have once again been neglected by the Government.”
Rowland Parry, Centre Manager said
“We have a great respect for the local Bootle community and have worked hard to attract tenants to the Strand Shopping Centre that are aligned to the needs of our population in Bootle and bring great value to local communities.”
Eddie Flynn, Bootle Tool Shed said:
“The amount of people we reach would not be possible in any other setting, whether we are doing community projects or helping out aged community members, this could be something as simple as fixing a gate for somebody, to bigger park projects, we are grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the future.”
Y-Kids CEO Claire Morgans said:
“Operating out of the Strand allows us to connect with a huge portion of Bootle’s residents and enables us to be truly accessible to the community.
“Our family of charity organisations here at the Strand see the centre as a community hub for people to get support for themselves and to support each other.
“The future of town centres must have community as it’s heart. The passion for Bootle already exists in those of us who have worked in the voluntary sector for many years, the key to Bootle’s regeneration is to harness that energy.”